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Holy Hip Hop – MANAFEST Surprises

Let’s put it on the table right now.  I am everything a savvy hip-hop music reviewer is not.

I’m female. I’m over 40.  I’m white.  I’m a mother of early adolescents.  But you’ll be surprised to know that our living room regularly kicks it with the fresh and driving sounds of MANAFEST – a Christian hip-hop artist.  His 2008 release of “Citizens Activ” landed on us from the result of a search for practice music for an up and coming b-boy hip-hop dancer in our house.  (Thanks for the tip, Reggie B.)*

citizens activManafest (aka Chris Greenwood) is from Pickering, Ontario.  He’s a Canadian suburban kid who performs across Canada and, like many Canadian bands, has a bigger following in countries other than his own.

Christian Hip Hop? Is this just going to be just another ‘jeesus weejus’ praise-band knock-off with theologically thin lyrics packaged with a different back beat?  You’ll be surprised.  Greenwood’s lyrics engage youthful life at its grittiest, honest and most beautiful and often speaks at a suprising depth of spiritual experience.  Yes, he’s an idealistic dreamer who doesn’t quite realize that not every kid will get to be a rock star, and sometimes basks in a naive ‘dreams can come true’ space in some lyrics. But that doesn’t detract from the energetic exuberance of his club songs, or the raw truth of rapping through his life-experiences like dealing with the suicide of his father (on the album “Glory”).  The full range is there.  The single “So Beautiful” is an expression of living a path that’s life-giving.  It’s not about the rock-star lifestyle, really it’s a musical expression of Fredrick Beuchner’s (“Beuchner? is he on iTunes?…”) quote that appears on the side bar of this site – “The place you’re called to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet. Both these things”.  Clearly, Greenwood has found his deep gladness, and it meets a deep need for music which resonates in meaningful ways in young (and no-so-young) hearts and lives.

” …When everything else fails you were where I dwell
Wind under my sails thunder that brings health
Wonder of the earth, love and cover my hurts
Up-and-coming, so stunning, you’ve been healing my world…”

Don’t take an old fart’s word for it.  Go listen for yourself.  Manfest’s website is www.manafest.ca.

default1 “So Beautiful” music video on Manafest’s website

(click on the link for ‘multimedia’ on the home page.  Press pause (bottom left of the screen) to shutoff the auto play tracks before clicking the video

And, if you want to read another review, see what Christianity Today had to say, or check this from his website…

“Poised in the dri

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vers seat, Chris Greenwood watches the world fly by and sees a thousand faces between the blur of brake lights and highway signs.With each stop it’s a new stage, an electrifying show, and a heightened desire to activate something within the hearts of those on the receiving end of the microphone.This is the mission, connect the dots one by one and set the world in motion.Each night is a small spark, but one thing Greenwood has learned in his seven year’s under the moniker “Manafest” is that small sparks can ignite wildfires.

Following on the heels of the internationally acclaimed Glory, Manafest returns with a new mindset, refreshed style and a powerful arsenal of songs aptly titled, Citizens Activ.”The record is about people taking action in their own lives.We need to be inspired and active in chasing our dreams”. Coming from humble beginnings Manafest has learned this lesson first hand, dramatically increasing record sales 5x over with the release of Glory.It’s the same unrelenting desire and refusal of stagnancy that inspired his message in Citizens Activ.

Manafest teamed up again with renowned chameleon producer Adam Messinger (New Kids on the Block, Eva Avila) to bring Citizens Activ to life.The result: eleven skillfully designed tracks, bursting with raw emotion and flawless production.”This is definitely going to be my most commercially appealing record”, says Manafest.”I’ve been listening to a lot of diverse music, which has definitely been an influence.On this record your going to find a mix of pop, rap, rock and gospel flavors.

The first single of the record is the dynamically rock infused “So Beautiful”. The song conveys a message of hope over blistering guitar lines and tag-teamed vocals (featuring Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch). “The song speaks of the struggle and hard work you put into something, and getting to finally see the beautiful outcome.A lot of times you need to look inward to see the big picture.” In addition to arena-crushing rock tunes, Manafest has certainly not neglected his hip-hop roots.

From the opening track “4321” to the club anthem “Top of The World”, Greenwood has left no stone left unturned, truly crafting a genre spanning record to unite the masses.

Armed with Citizens Activ in hand, Manafest plans to cover coast-to-coast, and nation-to-nation in 2008 with USA, Canada, Denmark, U.K, Ireland, Sweden and Japan all on the target listWith a very promising schedule looking forward, one cannot ignore a very impressive tour history.Manafest has shared the stage with a very respectable handful of artists including Stellar Kart, Thousand Foot Krutch, Seventh Day Slumber, LA Symphony, Grits, DJ Maj.

Given the right conditions a fire is easy to start. It takes time, patience and experience. With Citizens Activ, the groundwork will be laid and the tools created now its time for the vision to be realized. ‘My goal is to hear one thousand stories from kids saying that this record sparked a change in their life’. “

– from www.manafest.ca

*Reggie Blount led a workshop called “Can Hip Hop be Holy?” at Generation 2008.)

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Judy Steers

About Judy Steers

Judy Steers is the Coordinator for Youth Initiatives for the Anglican Church of Canada. Since 1999, she has also been the program director of the “Ask & Imagine” youth theology and leadership program at Huron University College. Her ministry has included camping ministries, consulting and teaching, parish ministry and she is a trainer with Godly Play Canada. Whenever possible she engages her passions for singing, drumming, outdoor adventure, off-the-wall ideas and whimsical creativity into her life and ministry working with teens and young adults, including two of her own.

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